Religious Studies | From Christian Ethics to Social Criticism I
R574 | 27120 | Miller
This is the first of a two-semester survey course that covers the
history of Christian ethics and the recent development of religious
ethics and social criticism. R374/574 will be followed in the
spring by its sequel, R375/575.
In R374 we will survey major thinkers in key periods of Christianity
and acquaint ourselves with different genres of ethical literature.
The course’s underlying premise is that Christian ethics is not a
single, monolithic entity or uniform stream of thought. It is
rather a patchwork of subtraditions that have produced different
literatures, arguments, and standards for human conduct in relation
to more general beliefs about the cosmos and history. Materials for
the first semester will draw from biblical sources and early
Christian teachings, followed by readings from patristic, monastic,
scholastic, reformed, and enlightenment Christianity. Likely
authors to be included in R374 include Paul, Justin Martyr, Clement
of Alexandria, Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux, Aquinas, Luther,
Calvin, radical reformers, Edwards, and Locke.
R375/575 in the spring will pick up where we left off in R374/574
Moreover, that course will explore intellectual changes that emerged
in the last third of the twentieth century, giving rise to a more
comparative and diversified discipline of religious ethics. That
development has important connections to and differences from
Christian ethics, which we=ll note during the last part of the
Given the diversity of materials we study in these courses, we will
examine the idea of a “tradition” and will ask what a tradition
comprises. That is to say, we will step back from the survey and
ask which materials might seem obvious to include in a tradition of
Christian ethics, and what those decisions suggest about how a
tradition is conceived (and revised).